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NTSB recommends alcohol detection systems on every new car

The National Highway Transportation Safety Board would need to approve it. Even if they do, it could take a few years before drivers see a change.

AMHERST, N.Y. — The National Transportation Safety Board is making a major push to cut down on the number of drunk driving-related crashes and deaths. 

They've asked the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to require all new cars have an alcohol detection device in them. 

According to NHTSA, more than 11,000 drivers were killed in 2020 because of a drunk driver.

Just last year, a drunk driver in California collided head-on into another car, killing both the adult drivers and seven children. NTSB officials say it could've been prevented had their been an alcohol detection system in the drunk driver's car. 

Elizabeth Carey with AAA said it could prevent a lot more deaths on the road too. 

"There is technology available to determine if a driver is drowsy, if they're disengaged, if they're using alcohol, if they're impaired. It's just a matter of time before automakers start to implement all this technology," Carey said.

So how would this work? 

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and 16 automakers are already funding research through two different companies.

One is a Swedish company researching breath detection through sensors, not a breathalyzer. The other company is looking into light tech, which would test blood alcohol through your finger.  

If a driver doesn't have below a .05 Blood Alcohol Concentration, their car won't start. 

AAA doesn't expect every driver to be open to the idea. 

"Based on what we've seen in the past, there will probably be a lot of opposition to this because people feel as though it infringes on their rights. People might say the car shouldn't be telling them what to do. Maybe they don't drink alcohol at all, why are they assuming they might be using alcohol? But again, this technology is out there," Carey said. 

There's also questions about how this would impact older cars. However, Carey says responsibility ultimately falls back onto everyone behind the wheel.

"Everyone just needs to be safe and make sure they're planning ahead when they're going to be drinking," she said. 

The NTSB can only recommend this. NHTSA would have to enact it before it becomes law. 

Right now, breath tech isn't expected to be ready until 2024 and the light and touch tech isn't expected to be ready until 2025.

Even then, it would take years before all 280 million cars on the road would all have the detection systems.

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